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Republican Moderates, Trump Says It's OK Again to Compromise. Go for It!

September 18, 2017


By Joe Rothstein

It’s an article of political faith that a Republican member of Congress, or a Republican state legislator who supports any issue—any issue—that does not conform with right wing orthodoxy, faces political excommunication in the form of a well-financed primary election opponent.

The threat is real. Many a Republican who has shown deviate instincts by considering compromise with Democratic colleagues has fallen on right wing swords.

Now let’s consider the politics of the last few weeks. Donald Trump has discovered that he can accomplish more by working with Democratic leaders in Congress. A compromise on saving Dreamers from deportation. An extension of the debt ceiling. A meeting of the minds on some elements of border security and upcoming changes to the tax code.

Have these efforts to break congressional gridlock driven away core Trump supporters? Judging by recent polls, apparently not. True, they have driven the nuttier voices on the right a bit nuttier. Limbaugh, Coulter, Ingram, and others. Too bad they are not speechless. But Trump seems to be correct that Trumpism has more in common with religion than politics. His disciples follow him, no matter where or what.

Given all this, and I’m talking to you, Republican moderates, don’t you see opportunity?

Hard core Trump supporters were responsible for his remarkable march through the 2016 presidential primaries. They certainly are the most energized of all Republican voters. Trump, who has never stopped campaigning, will be holding rallies in Trump strongholds through the 2018 primary season, trying to maintain his political base on full charge.

So, Republican moderates, you now have a significant, locked in base of voters for challenges to the extreme right wingers who have outmaneuvered you for control of your party, and who are now blocking Trump from legislative success. You have license to campaign supporting permanent residency for the Dreamers. You can support building the Wall in measured stages, preferably over a period of time that covers Trump’s departure from the White House and a lid on such nonsense. That’s apparently what he’s agreed to. Most importantly, you can discuss legislative compromise, a tactic that Trump has now found to be both productive and ego-appealing.

Of course, Trump being Trump, today’s shiny toys could be in tomorrow’s tweet trash. It’s entirely possible that filing for political office as a Republican and expecting Trump to still be offering his outsized hand across the partisan aisle, may wind up as a poor bet. In that case, you would need to depend on votes from the non-extreme right to get you through the party’s primary.

That leads to a question asked too seldom during the right’s ascendancy: Where are those moderate Republican voters?

I have many friends and acquaintances who register Republican but don’t think it’s a good idea to deport 11 million people, or put the global trading system at risk, or trash our allies while giving Russia a pass, or cozying up to segregationists, or denying climate change. They’re Republicans because they believe in smaller government, less taxes, fewer regulations and other historically defining conservative policies. These are the Republicans who nominated McCain and Romney over Gingrich, Santorum and Huckabee.

Where are they when there’s a choice for candidates who carry the moderate Republican banner in campaigns for Congress and state legislatures? To put a fine point on it, why do we assume, correctly, that any Republican who dares legislate in the time-honored way of cooperation and compromise is dead political meat, but a Republican who talks nonsense and votes in outrageous ways is political Teflon? Reapportionment has nothing to do with this.

A Republican safe district is a Republican safe district. Why is it a political death trap for Republicans bent on making government work right and a political walk in the park for those who don't.

A lot commentary deplores the fact that the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and, for heaven’s sake, even Reagan, has gone off the rails and is unrecognizable any more. How about more discussion about what could be if more non-fringe Republicans ran in primary elections and more non-fringe Republicans came to the polls to reclaim their party.

Republican moderates, Trump’s new-found interest in compromise gives you an opportunity. Go for it. Hang on to Trump’s coat tails in primaries, if he has any. Regardless, hang on to your principles. It may inspire a lot of other Republicans to join you.

(Joe Rothstein is a regular columnist for USPoliticstoday.com and author of the acclaimed political thriller “The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her.” Mr. Rothstein can be contacted at joe@einnews.com).



Joe Rothstein is editor of U.S. Politics Today. His career in politics spans 35 years, as a strategist and media producer in more than 200 campaigns for political office and for many political causes. He was a pioneer in professional political consulting and one of the founding members of the American Association of Political Consultants. During his career Mr. Rothstein has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA.